Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 November 2017

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.  Hebrews 13, verse 9.

For the last few weeks I’ve had “La La Land” playing in my head.   I’ve heard the catchy opening number – “Another Day of Sun” – playing over and over in my head.   If you haven’t seen the movie and you like musicals, watch it.  And you have to watch right from the opening credits because that opening number sets the stage for the entire movie.  “Climb these hills I’m reaching for the heights and chasing all the lights that shine.   When they let you down.   Get up off the ground.   Then morning comes around and it’s another day of sun.”

That kind of sums up one of the great things about Christian faith.  Jesus is always here, always the same, always a constant.   Every day is a gift, another day of Son in the sun.  We chase all kinds of things here on the Third Rock and they let us down.  Yet to survive, to persevere, we have to get up and try again.  Without knowing Jesus, life is just a senseless drudgery.   With Him, it’s another day of sun.

And in the process of getting through life we get distracted by lots of lights that shine.   They glitter, they’re cool, they’re trendy, they’re the thing; gotta chase em!   Sometimes those lights that shine are bright fires that burn in hostile camps.   Sometimes the things that are cool aren’t so cool when we become part of them.  Sometimes when things let us down we can get crushed.   Not to put an insensitive point on things but “that’s life.”

Here, then, is some more life.  Sometimes in worship we get distracted by thinking we MUST say the Lord’s Prayer every time we are in church.   Sometimes we forget to regard our brothers and sisters as fellow believers even when they royally mess up.  Sometimes we split our fellowship based on things like ‘just when (or if) do the wine and bread of communion actually become the body and blood of Christ?’   Sometimes our friends insist that we are becoming weak in our faith if we don’t do all the things they insist we must do.

When they let you down, get up off the ground and realize these are just shiny things you’re chasing.  Get back in the Son because it’s another day of sun.   Jesus hasn’t changed.   He’s the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.  No, what’s changed is our position in relation to him.   We’ve moved ourselves away from Him.   We chose something that wasn’t Him and we shifted.   And that’s crazy because He freed us from the need to follow human codes.   He freed us from the constraints of having to prove ourselves to God.

Centuries ago, the early followers of Jesus were genuinely conflicted about what foods they could and couldn’t eat.  Most of them had been raised as Jews, and Jews had all kinds of ceremonial laws about what foods were unclean (and thus forbidden) and those that were allowed.   Many of the foods common to pagan communities in the Roman Mediterranean area were considered unclean, and the early believers struggled with ‘how Jewish’ they should be in observing these ceremonial traditions.   Their Jewish friends, who had a vested interest in seeing the nascent Christianity fail, insisted that these new followers follow all Jewish codes.   First Century Judea had become spiritual La La Land, complete with the tyrannical government controlling the people and the complicit spiritual leadership doing whatever it needed to do to stay in power.

Jesus changed all that.  He made it so that we are free from following anything but Him.   As the Apostle Peter learned, we are free to rise and eat and not worry about whether it’s ceremonially unclean.   All that God has created is good.   And when you realize that, you realize that those old codes would only let you down.   That’s when it’s time to get up off the ground and follow Jesus.   When you do that, you realize that it’s morning and it’s another day of sun in the Son.   And you get to leave La La Land.

For further reading:  Ephesians 4:14, Colossians 2:7, Colossians 2:16, Hebrews 9:10, Acts 10:9-48.

Lord, thank You for making all things possible, for removing barriers we crazy humans put up in your creation.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10, verses 24-25.

I’m building a collection of rocks around the base of the cross we built by my pond.   At our old house, I had built a similar collection of stones from all around the world.   California, Florida, China, Uganda:   wherever I went, I picked up a rock.  They were put in a special planter built for just that purpose, but when we moved I left the rocks there.   Now, I’m building a new collection and it already has rocks from Walt Disney World, the Gulf Coast, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and places all over Texas.   I even have an old chunk of amethyst my Mom had acquired (I believe) at a rock quarry in Arkansas way back when I was a kid.

Somehow it seems neat to me to gather stones from all over the world to place them there at the foot of the cross.   That cross was almost the first project we did when we moved into this house last year.   The day after we took possession, my son, son-in-law, and I cut down a tree in our woods, fashioned it into a cross, bolted and roped it together, and then installed it in concrete.   A few months later, I wrapped it in solar lights so that it lights up at night.   When you drive by our house at night, you can see the cross, reflected off the pond.   It’s our own kind of witness to our friends and neighbors.

What does this have to do with verses 24 and 25?   To be honest, I’m not sure it has anything to do with it.  Then again..

…Then again, maybe it has everything to do with it.  My rock collection is like a collection of people, coming together to worship and make the cross of the Lord look better.  The longer we live here, the more it matters to give glory to God.  There are rocks of different shapes, different composition, different colors.   All together, they’re a mosaic.   They’re a strong base that gives the structure both foundation and beauty.

They’re like a church.   We started going to our home church, Waters Edge Frisco, in 2006, when it was still worshiping in a school.   Eleven years, several pastors, a discordant split, and hundreds of members later, I hardly recognize the place for all the new faces and new directions in which it’s moving.   That’s a good thing.   The people of God are the church, not some building or even some congregation.   We’re supposed to move in the world, yet we’re also called to come together to give glory to God.  When we do, it’s a refreshing thing to see a fresh, new mosaic of people calling that place home while others from the past have gone on to color their new homes with the purpose and freshness then once brought to ours.   That, too, is a good thing, for the body of God is alive.

We go to church to be the church, and the more I grow in faith, the more I value my time with my fellow believers.   We’re like those stones around the cross, bringing purpose, beauty, and strength to worship our God.   The more I grow in my faith, though, the more I see that the worship isn’t about our purpose, beauty or strength.   We get those things from God Himself.   They aren’t ours alone.   They aren’t even ours to give.   They’re qualities given to people to share in God’s greater mission.   All the more as we see the days of the end approaching, it’s a good thing to come together as groups and gather around the cross to simply worship He who was once nailed to it.   In doing so, we encourage each other and build each other up.

When we give glory to Jesus, He shines that glory out over us like the Sun warming the land.

It’s my hope to one day build that rock collection so big that it overtakes the cross.   I’ll have to expand around it at that point.   It’s my hope that friends, family and, better yet, strangers, will look at the collection and ask how it came to be, and what it means.   It’s my hope that, in a pile of rocks, they’ll see a unique glimpse of the Savior.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14, Acts 2:43, Hebrews 3:13, 1 Corinthians 3:13.

Lord, may I be Your rock in a wonderful collection of other stones.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 6 January 2014

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  James 5, verse 7.

A very happy new trip around the sun to you!   How about we plant a new crop for the new year?

You see, I love farming.  I really do.   Some of my best memories are of childhood days spent at farms, walking around barns, being near animals.   I love it every time I get a chance to drive out in the country, to tour farms, ranches, and vineyards.   A few months ago, my wife and I were sharing a bottle of wine at an east Texas vineyard when I told her that growing things, making wine, and meeting people was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life.   And I meant it.

To this end, we are in the process of starting a vineyard.   Our goal is to buy land in east Texas and plant a vineyard.  God-willing, “Second Chance Vineyards” will be open for business next year or in 2016 at the latest.   Our mission is to use our passions for wine, growing things, and meeting people to spread the Gospel in any way we can.   Through wine, pumpkins, books, tastings, tours, whatever:   whoever we meet gets put in touch with God’s Word.

It’s kind of like farming, you see (very much like it given that viticulture is, well, farming).  God planted an idea seed in us.   We know we’re blessed, we enjoy meeting people, we have always wanted to start a business together, and we really like wine.  And I love farming and she loves the country.   Sounds like a plan to me!

Here’s the kicker:   it’s not about me, or us.   I’ve used ½ of this blog to talk about what I want, but it’s my hope that this is nothing more than growing the seed God already planted.  Farmers raise crops, watching the rain, the temperature, the seasons.   From these they know how to adjust their methods and make the most out of a crop.

You and me, we are farmers, too.  God sowed the seeds of His love in our lives.   You and I get to plant that elsewhere, water and fertilize it, and help it grow to produce a crop.   We then get to replant that crop everywhere we go.  Through it, we watch love grown and watch the seasons of our lives turn, keeping an eye on the skies for when He will return and all will be complete.

God willing, my wife and I will do some of our farming on a small parcel of land south of Paris.  If not there, then perhaps somewhere else nearby.   I’m just the farmer.

Lord, help me to farm where You have me this year.

 

Where are you farming now?

What crop have you sown in the hearts of others?

What talents did God give you to help your crop grow?